Potential aerodynamic changes to improve overtaking in 2019 will be a key topic debated at today’s Formula 1 Strategy Group meeting in Paris, with deadlines looming and some teams resistant.
Following the lack of passing in the Australian Grand Prix, a Bahrain meeting involving the FIA, F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds and team technical bosses failed to reach a consensus on a solution. Discussions will now move on to team boss level at the Strategy Group. In theory the deadline for any technical regulation changes for 2019 is April 30, although they can be made after that date with a unanimous team vote.
That could prove hard to achieve with teams voicing concerns about the principle of the changes, the timing and potential cost: “The question first of all is what is the strategy behind it?” said McLaren racing director Eric Boullier. – “Is it just for overtaking, and is it a knee-jerk reaction after Australia? If it’s a reaction to Australia, that’s maybe a bit too fast.”
The team of researchers working under Symonds to hone the 2021 F1 rules package has also been helping FIA technical boss Nicolas Tombazis investigate what changes could be made for 2019 to make following cars easier. Research has indicated that ‘out-washing’ front wing endplate elements designed to control the airflow around the front wheels have a detrimental effect on the following car. Removing those elements, along with a bigger rear wing flap and more powerful DRS, has been proposed as a stopgap measure for overtaking before the 2021 changes.
Eric Boullier fears teams could be forced into multiple changes over the next three seasons: “Should we take a decision in less than two months, and change radically the F1 aero platform or aero regs with the risk that we maybe have to change it again in 2020 because it’s not doing what they wanted or expected to achieve? And then change again in 2021? If we change the regulations three years in a row obviously this is very costly, and I don’t think that this is where F1 need to be when we are talking about sustainability and cost saving. I think we should investigate this more to try to build the future of F1 and leave the aero like it is until we have a better idea of what we want to achieve in 2021.”
Force India technical director Andy Green believes that it is already too late to make big changes, and is anticipating that the rules will stay as they are: “It is pretty much unprecedented to have a rewrite of the technical regulations in the middle of April for the following year. Time is a big factor, yes. But also trying to understand what changes need to be made is another one. Everybody is assuming that the changes proposed help the car following, and help overtaking. Well, that is a big assumption. There is no data to prove it, it is only someone’s idea.” – he concluded.